Monday, March 21, 2016

Our Trump

Trump and Rauner

Brian Mackey of Illinois Public Radio has a meaty story analyzing Bruce Rauner as a typical CEO turned politician and as a cautionary tale for a Trump presidency. (Hat-tip to Capitol Fax, which flagged the story today.)

Among the more interesting things in the story is Mackey's use of the findings of a book called Stealth Democracy. The book argues that most Americans don't really want democracy, with all its arguments and messy compromise. Rather, they exaggerate the amount of agreement about what government should do, and therefore attribute disagreement to self-interested politicians. Hence the special attraction of non-politicians to ride in and implement common sense reforms, overriding the special interests.

Rauner seems to share this idea of stealth democracy himself, failing to recognize that the Democrats opposing his turnaround agenda are representing more than special interests. He sold himself as a deal maker and team builder, but in office has acted more like a vulture capitalist hired on as a CEO and engaged in 'corporate turnaround'.

The problem of course is that he doesn't have the power of a CEO; instead of firing a lot of people at once, then, the obstinacy of the Democratic legislature and the courts has forced him to fund 90% of state government, while starving the remaining 10%. Unfortunately that 10% includes higher education, where layoffs are starting to come in droves (what's the group term for a flock of layoffs?).

And presumably corporate takeover artists at least have some plan for the company that will emerge from bankruptcy (if only to sucker other investors into buying the company so they can make their profit). The closest thing Rauner has to a plan has been characterized by Randy Dunn as "a smack upside the head to all of us in higher education".

The Trump comparison is in some ways the weakest part of Mackey's story. Rauner at least has an ideology, love it or hate it. He also seems not to share that much in Trump's kinship with fascism. Trump is however a purer (and puerile) embodiment of the stealth democracy ideal: he'll just do things better because he's bigger; he doesn't represent special interests because he only represents himself.

Politically, I'd think Rauner is about as effective as a President Cruz would be with a democratic legislature. But Trump makes for a better headline. Some will even employ his picture in efforts to attract readers. As a would-be two-bit member of the media, I'm doing my part to prepare us for the day when we'll need to hang a picture of our Dear Donald in every public space so as to proclaim our fealty to Trumpery.

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